Fitness Articles

6 Things to Look for When Buying Exercise Apparel

How to Shop for Workout Clothes

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Wicking ability
If you’re going to be perspiring a lot, make sure your base layer will keep you dry and comfortable. Look for a polyester/ Lycra blend or another synthetic material. These materials keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer—even when wet—and dry quickly. If you prefer natural materials, wool and bamboo exercise shirts naturally wick away moisture, too.

Perfect fit
While you might be tempted to hide beneath baggy layers, you will feel more confident and sure of yourself if you wear an outfit that looks good on you and plays up your assets. If you feel good about yourself, you’ll be inclined to exercise more often. Clothing trends change for workout wear too, but the basics never go out of style. Add one or two more trendy pieces to your wardrobe (such as a performance T-shirt in this season’s “hot” color) but keep your classic black yoga pants that are timeless.

Layerable 
Your workout wardrobe should be versatile, carrying you from the hottest months to the coldest months (if you'll be exercising outdoors). To avoid overspending during the changes of the seasons, keep this in mind when shopping, looking for items that can easily layer during cold months. Start with a moisture-wicking dry layer, such as a wicking T-shirt or tank top, then add a warmer layer such as a fleece pullover. Finish with a protective outer layer (for waterproofing and wind proofing) such as a windbreaker or a nylon shell. Shop during the off-season for the best deals.

Technologically advanced
Many new workout pieces feature anti-microbial treatments to combat odor, while others have built-in ultra-violet protection to fight the sun’s harmful rays. You can also buy glow-in-the-dark or luminescent jackets and running pants to help keep you visible if you exercise after dark. If you are a hiker concerned about Lyme disease, look for clothing that contains permethrin, a synthetic version of the natural insect repellent found in chrysanthemums.

Activity appropriate
Baggy pants aren't feasible for cycling or Spinning, and flowing tops won't keep you covered when you do downward dog in yoga class. Consider the activities you do most, and make sure the clothes you buy are comfortable and appropriate for that activity. Most people can't go wrong with fitted workout Capri pants and a fitted performance top, but always try on clothes before you buy—and try a few of your signature workout moves in the dressing room to be sure.


The more frequently you exercise, the more important it is to wear the right kind of clothes. Aside from keeping you comfortable, dry and cool, the right outfit also makes you feel like a million bucks, so find pieces that flatter your figure so you can hit the gym in style.
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About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.

Member Comments

  • I wear the same old holey stuff I wear when I mow the lawn. Does it look good? Certainly not. But when I am at the gym dripping sweat and making heavy-metal workout faces, does it really matter?? Not one whit. - 3/17/2014 11:22:49 AM
  • Cotton all the way! It doesn't leave me as hot and sweaty as the synthetics do. Ever since spending a late spring / early summer in the south, I've gotten away from man made fabrics and have much less problems with the natural fibers. - 3/17/2014 12:48:56 AM
  • I use new workout clothes as a reward on a regular basis. Meet my mileage goal for the year? Reward is a nice technical top and bottoms. Pricey, but worth it to keep me motivated to wake up at 5 AM to work out! - 11/5/2013 8:33:05 AM
  • Being a bigger girl, I find that new material totally uncomfortable and really hot---makes me feel worse---I don't understand why anyone would wear it---unless you are super thin and have no bulges, those clothes look terrible on me and bind me and restrict my movement. - 11/5/2013 6:57:07 AM
  • At this stage in the game, I refuse to workout without my compression shorts and sports bra. Once I've got these on, I don't care which shirt or pants I'm wearing to get my move on. - 8/13/2013 10:47:53 PM
  • JENNYLOVE808
    Is this just an ad to buy sparkpeople.com workout clothing? - 6/11/2013 9:51:17 PM
  • Most of the time im not too picky about what im wearing to work out as long as it is comfortable! I can tell you the one thing I can't go without is a comfortable sports bra!!! A bad one can ruin a whole workout! - 6/11/2013 6:08:06 PM
  • i would exercise in AN IRON SUIT if it worked for me - i have had all the fancy apparel, expensive label - the bargain basement stuff - and the old cut offs and t's.
    it makes no difference as long as you move your body - but as far as weight loss it has not worked very well at all for me.
    i was doing wt lifting classes - had a personal trainer - BIG BUCKS - line dancing, zumba - you get the picture - as well as using the gym equipment and circuit training
    i have a tread mill at home and walk on it even in my bathrobe -
    i am still the same weight -
    clothing options - bottom of the important list - 6/11/2013 10:15:39 AM
  • HOOKTONTRAVEL
    totally disagree on cotton. i'm finding i hate having anything other than natural fibers against my skin. I'm not a long-distance runner though, so chafing might be an issue if I did that... but I've tried the poly performance stuff and it always ends up STINKY after one wearing. with BO that won't come out in the wash no matter what I try. Cotton doesn't absorb the BO as much, and it clears right out when I wash it. Plus it does soak up my sweat. Plus it leaves ME less-stinky afterwards because it can breathe in a way the so-called 'performance' stuff doesn't. I notice a huge difference in the stink when I pull off my nylon/spandex bike shorts as compared to my cotton/spandex workout capris. If performance specialty gear works for you, great. for me, the ol' cotton t or a tank for summer is far superior. natural fibers whenever possible on this body!!! I don't workout in sweats, though, because I find they're a little too bulky. and workout gear is REALLY hard to find in larger sizes. I'm about a size 12 right now and all the bike gear I have is XXL and just barely fits. I have no idea what I'd do if I still was 235 like in high school!! I guess ride in T's and jeans probably. Oh, and I have a good friend who is seriously allergic to poly. breaks out in a rash if anything touches her skin... so I try to wear more natural fibers for that reason, too! Wool is actually awesome for wicking and staying warm when wet. Plus the wind doesn't blow through it like poly fleece stuff... - 6/11/2013 9:23:35 AM
  • Thanks. Biker shorts, shirt, legging, and my sneakers and Iam straight. - 4/28/2013 8:59:50 PM
  • RUNNINGINOR
    For the last two years I have been a consistent runner. This is the first year I have shelled out cash for "good" running clothes. I have always worn old cotton t's that are too gross to wear as anything else, and baggy sweats to hide my belly-bulge. After committing to running in the rain last winter, and spending an awful lot of time yanking up the pants and peeling off the shirts, this is my advice: if you are female (like me) and overweight (like me), go to a WOMEN's sports clothing store. They carry really nice, really tested brands. Tell the LADY sales associate what kind of exercise you do, and what you hope to accomplish. I spent nearly two hours trying on "dream" running rain gear, left with only a FANTASTIC sports bra (Moving Comfort- Juno, best $50 spent EVER!!!), and had a great LESSON on what is available, and what I really need. Now I can go to Target, Wal-Mart, etc, and be able to tell if the "cheaper" brands really could perform as well as the fancy.

    Work outs should feel good to do. That is the motivation to do them, right? It is not important to have the top of the line everything, but with a few key pieces that improve your workout experience, I think that really motivates me to run those extra miles, rain or shine. - 12/3/2012 4:35:09 PM
  • I ditched the cotton shirts for good after a particularly bad chafing episode. Technical shirts are so much better! - 8/26/2012 10:27:33 AM
  • shirts are not a problem for me, but right now i have two pairs of shorts i alternate between, now that cold weather will soon be around, i wonder what i can wear other than sweats.
    which lets face it, sweats?
    i mean i really wish i could find some alternative, but until i lose some more tummy, im not going to even entertain the idea. - 8/26/2012 8:36:51 AM
  • I love Champion workout clothes from Target. They are great. - 8/26/2012 8:33:12 AM
  • I love putting on a cheap pair of yoga capris one of the million tee shirts my mother bought me on her vacations. I do have some fancy work out clothes. I get them more as a treat when there's a sale at Dick's or Sports Authority. I'll get a top in a 'great' color. Doing more yoga I did get some shirts that don't move.

    There has be a lot more advertisement on Spark lately telling us that part of losing weight is buying stuff. They have to keep the site paid for so it's bound to creep in. - 8/26/2012 7:49:58 AM
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